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Main Difference Polysemy vs

Polysemy and Homonymy are two similar concepts in
linguistics. Both of them refer to words having multiple
meanings. Polysemy refers to the coexistence of many
possible meanings for a word or phrase. Homonymy
refers to the existence of two or more words having
the same spelling or pronunciation but different
meanings and origins. This is the main difference
between polysemy and homonymy.
What is Polysemy
Polysemy refers to words or phrases with different, but
related meanings. A word becomes polysemous if it can be
used to express different meanings. The difference
between these meanings can be obvious or subtle. It is
sometimes difficult to determine whether a word is
polysemous or not because the relations between words
can be vague and unclear. But, examining the origins of
the words can help to decide whether a word is polysemic
or homonymous.

The following sentences contain some examples of


He drank a glass of milk.

He forgot to milk the cow.
The enraged actor sued the newspaper.
He read the newspaper.
His cottage is near a small wood.
The statue was made out of a block of wood.
He fixed his hair.
They fixed a date for the wedding.

Although the meanings of the underlined word pairs only

have a subtle difference. The origins of the words are
related. Such words are generally listed in dictionaries
under one entry; numbers may be used to denote the
subtle differences.

What is Homonymy
Homonymy refers to two unrelated words that look or
sound the same. Two or more words become homonyms if
they either sound the same (homophones), have the same
spelling (homographs), or if they both homophones and
homographs, but do not have related meanings. Given
below are some examples of homonyms:

The main stem of a herbaceous plant

Pursue or approach stealthily


adult female pig

to plant seeds in a ground

The above two examples are both written and read alike;
they have the same spellings and sounds. Some words do
not have the same spellings, but they share same the
same pronunciation. For example,

Read vs Reed
Right vs Write
Pray vs Prey

Stair vs Stare
Difference Between Polysemy
and Homonymy
Polysemy is the coexistence of many possible meanings
for a word or phrase.
Homonymy is the existence of two or more words having
the same spelling or pronunciation but different meanings
and origins.

Polysemy has different, yet related meanings.
Homonymy has completely different meanings.

Polysemy has related word origins.
Homonymy has different origins.

Polysemous words are listed under one entry in
Homonymous words are listed separately.

Guessing the Meaning

Polysemous words can be understood if you know the
meaning of one word.
The meaning of homonymous words cannot be guessed
since the words have unrelated meanings.

Polysemy is an aspect of semantic ambiguity that concerns the

multiplicity of word meanings. For a commonplace example, consider
the meaning of the adjective good in the following sentences:
1. We had a good time yesterday.
2. Bring me a good banana.
3. That ticket is good for travel on any flight.
4. Its a good ten miles to the next gas station.
In each case, good carries a different meaning:
1. Pleasurable, enjoyable, or satisfying.
2. Suitable for an intended purpose.
3. Generally valid and acceptable.
4. Emphatically full or complete.
Notice the range of meanings available for interpretation of good in
these few sentences. As of this writing, Google returns about 5.3 billion
pages (out of 30 trillion total) that mention good. These and many
more senses of good are distributed in that data.
Polysemy is an everyday fact of ordinary language usage, and humans
blithely interpret correct results without conscious effort. However,
polysemy is largely impervious to any generalized natural language
processing technology.

polysemy refers to the quality of some words to have several

related meanings.

1. particular place of work or action (This is our base of operations)
2. lowest point, edge of something (People began to gather at the
base of the structure long before anyone decided to climb it)
3. root or stem of a word (the base form of the word broken is
4. the objects that designate the path a batter must run after hitting
the ball (first, second, and third base)
1. foundation (My decision is based on the fact that its raining
2. center of an action

1. of a tone or note (She has a hard time singing at such a high
2. steepness of a roof
3. level of intensity (fever pitch)
4. delivery of a ball (That was a lousy pitch.)
5. the spiel, or mini-speech used when trying to persuade someone
to do something (Dont give me that old sales pitch again!)
1. to throw or fling somethingliterally or figuratively, roughly or
casually (to pitch a ball, tent, fit)
2. fall heavily (She pitched forward down the hill!)

1. secret plan (The terrorist plot was thwarted.)
2. main events (as devised and organized by the author) of a play or
piece of writing (
3. small piece of land set aside for something (That plot of land over
there is a community garden.)
4. a graph
1. to make secret plans (I caught them plotting against the
2. to devise sequencing of events (We began to plot out a timeline
for the events.)
3. to mark on chart (I plotted the data on this graph.)

1. in attendance (At the present moment, I dont have the
2. existing or occurring now (present tense)
1. the present (here and now, this moment)
2. a gift (Herman likes to open his birthday presents after the
guests leave.)
1. to give (to present something to someone: She presented the first
place winner with a trophy.)
2. to show (I presented my badge to the doorman, but he was not
3. to give a presentation (Gabby presented her findings to the board
of trustees.)
1. distinction in verb form to express time and duration (verb
1 stretched tight, rigid, (muscles)
1 unable to relax, showing nervous tension (Why do you look so
1 marked by strain or suspense
1. to make rigid or tight
2. to tighten
1. worth or denomination of something (like a coin)
2. worth compared to price (Dont throw out that teddy bear! It has
sentimental value.)
3. principles/beliefs/standards (family values, personal values)
4. a magnitude/quantity/number (for example, a math question
might ask what is the value of X?)
1. considered to be important (He is a valued costumer!)
1. to cherish or respect (I value our time together. I value your
2. to estimate/assign monetary value (Her estate is valued at)

noun: a table or other structure over which purchases are made in a shop. From 13th century Old French comptouer;
related to count above.
noun: something or someone who counts. Related to count, above.
verb: to oppose something. The word came from Norman French contre, meaning "against", in the 15th century.
adverb: in the opposite direction. The same origin as the verb above.

1. Noun. A water-bird. The word comes from Old English duce and Middle English doke.
2. Verb. To dive or plunge into water. This meaning comes from similar origins to the above.
3. Noun. A type of strong cotton cloth. This form of the word came into English in the 17th century
from the Dutch word doek.
4. Noun. A term of endearment. To call someone your duck or duckie is similar to calling them your
darling. It came into English in the 16th century.
5. Noun. A score of nil (nothing); "out for a duck" in a game of cricket. This came into use about 150
years ago, perhaps from the idea that the figure 0 is the same shape as a duck's egg.

Adjective. Meaning lovely or beautiful, when describing someone, it comes from Old
English fger, beautiful. This meaning is not used very much nowadays, apart from in poetry.
2. Adjective. Meaning of light complexion, or light coloured (blonde) hair, it has been used in
English for over 800 years.
3. Adjective. Meaning reasonable, equitable, free from self-interest, it developed in the 14th
3. Noun. Meaning a gathering of people to sell and barter goods

The main group of uses for this word started over 1,000 years ago, developing from the Old English
word cg.
A small metal device used for opening and closing a lock.
The figurative use of the first definition something crucial to an explanation or solution to a
A list of explanations of symbols, e.g., on a map.
A button you press on the keyboard of, e.g., a computer.
A lever you press on the keyboard of a musical instrument, e.g., a piano.
Originating in the 16th century, another form of the word denotes a musical scale or a set of notes on
which a piece of music is based.

noun: something written down in just a few words. It came into English in the 13th century from
an Old French word which came from Latin, nota, meaning a sign. The other uses of the word,
below, developed from the same origin. Also used as a verb meaning to notice, e.g., to note
something, to take note of someone's comment.
noun: in music, a single sound or the symbol used to represent it.
noun: a piece of paper money is called a note or a bank note
noun: a book or one of a series of books.
noun: the amount of space occupied by something.
noun: the loudness of a sound.